|© UNICEF Malaysia/2005/Nadchatram|
|UNICEF Malaysia volunteers packing bottled water, soap and infant food for relief centres in Kuala Muda and Langkawi|
NEW YORK, 24 January 2004 - Four weeks after Malaysia’s worst natural disaster, the relief effort is beginning to focus on rebuilding lives and livelihoods.
When the tsunami struck the Indian Ocean region on 26 December, Malaysia had fewer casualties than neighbouring countries such as Indonesia or Sri Lanka. An estimated 69 Malaysians lost their lives and 8,000 people were either made homeless or had their livelihoods disrupted. Most of the fatalities were local picnickers and anglers.
Malaysia was spared the full impact of the tsunami because the island of Sumatra shelters it from the Indian Ocean. In addition, lifeguards and an observation tower system provided warnings at the resorts and hotels in Penang and Langkawi.
Soon after the tsunami struck, UNICEF distributed bottled water, infant food and soap to around 5,200 survivors in the thirteen relief centres in Kuala Muda and Langkawi districts.
A month later, the people whose homes were destroyed have moved from relief camps to temporary accommodations. The 12 affected schools in Kuala Muda and Langkawi have reopened. UNICEF is working with the Malaysian Ministry of Health and other organizations to assess the counselling needs of the children traumatized by the tsunami.
The Malaysian government is allowing UNICEF to use its air force base at Subang and has loaned two Hercules C-130 aircraft to help distribute urgent supplies to Indonesia.
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